Borderlands of Slavery
The Struggle over Captivity and Peonage in the American Southwest
America in the Nineteenth Century
Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press, Inc.
280 pages, 152.00 x 229.00 mm, 16 illus.
- ISBN: 9780812225020
- Published: November 2021
It is often taken as a simple truth that the Civil War and the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution ended slavery in the United States. In the Southwest, however, two coercive labor systems, debt peonage—in which a debtor negotiated a relationship of servitude, often lifelong, to a creditor—and Indian captivity, not only outlived the Civil War but prompted a new struggle to define freedom and bondage in the United States.
In Borderlands of Slavery, William S. Kiser presents a comprehensive history of debt peonage and Indian captivity in the territory of New Mexico after the Civil War. It begins in the early 1700s with the development of Indian slavery through slave raiding and fictive kinship. By the early 1800s, debt peonage had emerged as a secondary form of coerced servitude in the Southwest, augmenting Indian slavery to meet increasing demand for labor. While indigenous captivity has received considerable scholarly attention, the widespread practice of debt peonage has been largely ignored. Kiser makes the case that these two intertwined systems were of not just regional but also national importance and must be understood within the context of antebellum slavery, the Civil War, emancipation, and Reconstruction.
Kiser argues that the struggle over Indian captivity and debt peonage in the Southwest helped both to broaden the public understanding of forced servitude in post-Civil War America and to expand political and judicial philosophy regarding free labor in the reunified republic. Borderlands of Slavery emphasizes the lasting legacies of captivity and peonage in Southwestern culture and society as well as in the coercive African American labor regimes in the Jim Crow South that persevered into the early twentieth century.
Chapter 1. Debating Southwestern Slavery in the Halls of Congress
Chapter 2. Indian Slavery Meets American Sovereignty
Chapter 3. The Peculiar Institution of Debt Peonage
Chapter 4. Slave Codes and Sectional Favor
Chapter 5. Reconstruction and the Unraveling of Alternative Slaveries
"William Kiser's new book on slavery and debt peonage in nineteenth-century New Mexico sits at the cutting edge of several historiographical trends in American history. Joining new scholarship that has demonstrated the ubiquity of Native American captivity and enslavement, the book also furthers recent efforts to nationalize the story of the Civil War, Emancipation, and Reconstruction. Cogently argued and rigorously researched, this book is a must read for anyone interested in nineteenth-century US history." ~Journal of American Ethnic History
"Thousands of people in the nineteenth-century Southwest had little freedom or right to their own labor. Kiser's fascinating Borderlands of Slavery documents local and national political wrangling over systems of involuntary labor . . . [Kiser] adds important insights into the ways captivity and peonage intersected with larger abolition politics." ~American Historical Review
"This fine book is a welcome addition to the growing literature on slavery and captivity in the U.S. Southwest. William S. Kiser's scholarship complements earlier works by James F. Brooks, Andrés Reséndez, and others by providing an in-depth analysis of debt peonage in the Southwest and by showing the nationwide impact of political debates and legislation elicited by southwestern practices of unfree labor." ~Journal of American History
"Borderlands of Slavery offers an original analysis of the workings of Indian slavery and debt peonage in the Southwest, the legislation around these practices, the opinions in favor of and against them held by Hispanics and Anglos, and the terrible toll that they took on indigenous peoples and impoverished mestizos." ~Andrés Reséndez, University of California, Davis
"William S. Kiser has given us the most comprehensive portrayal yet of debt peonage in New Mexico in the years following the American takeover of this region, all while showing that, although related, debt peonage and Indian slavery were different forms of bondage. His indefatigable research has brought to light social, legal, and political dimensions of the Southwest's post-Civil War labor institutions and customs that were far more important than scholars generally believe." ~James F. Brooks, University of California, Santa Barbara
- Winner of the 2018 Historical Society of New Mexico Gaspar Perez de Villagra Award